Hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fire are the most common natural disasters faced by horse owners. During a storm your horse could be injured or killed by? a collapsing barn, being hit on roadways, becoming tangled in wire, electrocution or kidney failure secondary to dehydration.
Every farm should have a written disaster plan to optimize safety and survival of all animals.
Before the Storm
- Vaccinations: All horses should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year. Due to the increase in mosquitoes after massive rainfall, all horses should receive West Nile virus and eastern and western equine encephalitis vaccinations at the beginning of hurricane season.
- Coggins: A negative Coggins test is necessary if the horse needs to be evacuated
to a community shelter or cross state lines.
- Health certificate: A health certificate is required to cross state lines. This may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas.
- ?Identification: Each horse should be identified with at least one, if not all, of the following:
- A leather halter with name/farm information in a zip lock bag secured to the halter with duct tape.
- A luggage tag with the horse/farm name and phone number braided into the tail. (Make sure this is waterproof).
- Photos of each horse as proof of ownership highlighting obvious identifying marks.
Evacuation of floodplains and coastal areas is recommended–and should occur 48 hours before hurricane-force winds. Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mph is dangerous.
Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn?
If the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside. Well-constructed pole barns or concrete-block barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if wind collapses the building.
- Electrical lines: Keep horses out of pastures with power lines.
- Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane-force winds and can injure the horse or destroy the fencing.
- Fencing: Do not keep horses in barbed wire or electric fencing during a storm.
- Fire ants and snakes will search for high ground during flooding. Carefully look over the premises for these potential dangers.
- 12 to 20 gallons per horse per day should be stored.
- Fill garbage cans with plastic liners and water, and fill all water troughs.
- Have a generator to run the well if you have large numbers of horses.
- Keep chlorine bleach on hand to add to contaminated water, if necessary. To purify water, add two drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.
Store a minimum of 72 hours of feed and hay (seven days is best). It is possible that roads will be closed because of downed power lines and trees, limiting access to feed stores. Cover hay with waterproof tarps and place it on pallets. Keep grain in water-tight containers.
- Secure all movable objects.
- Remove all items from hallways.
- Jumps and lawn furniture should be secured in a safe place.
- Place large vehicles, tractors and trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them.
- Turn off electrical power to barn.
Emergency first-aid kit
- Bandages (leg wraps and quilts)
- Topical antibiotic ointments
- Pain relievers (phenylbutazone or Banamine)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra halters and lead ropes
- Clean towels
- Fly spray
- Chain saw and fuel
- Hammer and nails
- Fence repair materials
- Wire cutters, tool box, pry bar
- Fire extinguisher
- Duct tape
After the Storm
Carefully inspect each horse for injury to eyes and limbs.
Walk the pasture to remove debris. Make sure that no red maple tree braches fell in the pasture. Just a few wilted leaves are very toxic to horses. Clinical signs of red maple toxicity are dark-chocolate-colored gums, anorexia and red urine.
Inspect the property for downed power lines.
Take pictures of storm damage.
If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control or disaster response team.